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Garden Critter Observations

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Garden Critter Observations

Post  Razed Bed on 6/24/2015, 9:56 am

In the last two days, we have noticed two critters coming all the way to our back patio door in search of whatever.

On Monday morning, a deer the size of American Pharoah came down from the woods around 7:45.  This deer is the big bully of the dozen or so in our neighborhood.

We watched as he began to eat all the fallen pears from the Bartlett Pear tree.  One obviously had fermented some, because he sent it flying when he discovered it did not taste good.

Not satisfied, he came down to the patio and sniffed the Pits and Spits smoker, licking the grease trap.  He briefly looked at our Mortgage Lifter tomatoes in the big containers, and then he approached our French Door, possibly noticing his reflection in the glass.

He sniffed one of the hummingbird feeders and bumped up against it, which spooked him back into the woods rather quickly, covering the 60 feet from door to woods in about the same time a Porsche 911 could accelerate.

Yesterday morning, we had a groundhog appear from the woods around 6:45.  He bypassed everything in the garden and ventured down to the patio, where just like the deer, he gravitated to the Pits and Spits.  I guess mammals like barbecue or something, or maybe it is the smell of hickory, pecan, and oak woods that have been charred.

He didn't eat anything, but he made a very big mistake.  He climbed over the fence into the neighbor's yard where two westie's and a poodle awaited.  Three little dogs versus one big groundhog was a rather fair fight, and the loser was our neighbor when she tried to break up the fight.  One of her dogs sunk his teeth into her arm.

Two of her dogs had to go to the vet with wounds from the groundhogs sharp claws, while the groundhog took his lumps and limped back over the fence and into the woods with probably non-life threatening bites.

I doubt we will see the groundhog again, but the throughbred-sized buck is not going anywhere soon and apparently has lost much of its fear of humans and dogs.  I half believe that this deer could potentially kick a dog's brains out if it gets in a fight, and I am not sure it worries too much about humans.  He has been seen in driveways and even entered a carport, knocking over a bunch of stuff on a shelf.

My neighbor on the other side of the dogs has a 470-acre farm outside of the city.  He told me that he would never try to grow anything in our neighborhood with all the critters around.  He's 70+ years old and has been producing vegetables for local grocers for years, so he knows his stuff.  It makes me feel much better that we actually harvest a few things, and maybe our homemade essential oil sprays have some merit.

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Re: Garden Critter Observations

Post  donnainzone5 on 6/24/2015, 11:58 am

Funny, well-written post!   Laughing

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Re: Garden Critter Observations

Post  BeckieSueDalton on 6/24/2015, 12:05 pm

I'm entirely envious of your local deer even though I know they're said to eat tender plants.  I used to see them all the time when I was little and we lived up in the mountains near Asheville NC.  Our house here in Atlanta is right smack in the middle of Greater Suburbia, so I doubt I'll ever see anything naturally wild larger than the rabbits, raccoons, and possums that come through on grand and rare occasion.

I'm not as envious about the groundhog and your poor neighbor, though.  I've visited "General Beau Lee" a few times down at the Little Yellow Game Ranch near Stone Mountain, of course, but I've never seen one outside captivity and would cry buckets if one decided to come through our porch screen and tear into it with either of our old biddy kitties.

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Re: Garden Critter Observations

Post  Razed Bed on 6/24/2015, 1:31 pm

One deer would be okay, maybe, but when you have a dozen or more urban nuisance deer, it is no longer fun.  They cannot be hunted in our urban area, and they will never venture far enough to worry about becoming a wall ornament or dinner.

Some people don't think before they act and put out food for the wild animals.  One deer accustomed to eating and drinking off a porch or patio soon becomes 15 all expecting to be fed at dusk and/or dawn.

I learned this the hard way with the raccoons, and now the only present raccoon I have befriended is T-Rac, the Tennessee Titans mascot.

The biggest issue is that the deer prefer to make poop in the open and not in the woods where they can be stalked by coyotes.  So, they use our front yard, because there are two acres of open land between our front yard and our neighbors.  Our grass cutter hates it, for two reasons.  One, she can step in it when she is using the weedeater to trim; and two, it creates large patches of Johnson grass that become thick and plush in a hurry.  This clogs her mower blade.

My personal issue is that the deer could potentially wipe us out in one night.  12 to 15 hungry deer could easily eat everything we have, and our bird-squirrel netting would not get in their way.  So far, they appear to be satisfied with the neighbors' food and water, but the biggie likes our fallen fruit.  He probably has also pulled off some pears from the lower branches, which are within his reach.

We have an old, small, frail little dog that does not attack anything other than the fingers that give her leftover scraps.  She does not know about enemy mammals, and if the deer was to jump the fence into her dog pen, I am sure she would go up to introduce the way dogs exchange their calling cards.  One sniff could find the deer kicking a field goal with her.

I have called our wildlife agencies, and there is nothing they can do if the deer have not damaged somebody else.  Even if they cause many dollars worth of damage, until they attack a human, they are free to do whatever they want.

We have a neighborhood Listserv, and I see where somebody a few miles away recently had a deer break a bay window in their breakfast nook.  Another reported that she had deer come in her garage when the door was left open, and when they tried to run out upon being discovered, one slid on the concrete and knocked a couple of boxes over.  The boxes contained her deceased grandmother's pictures, depression glass, and other memories.

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Re: Garden Critter Observations

Post  Marc Iverson on 6/25/2015, 3:47 am

Fun topic!

We get raccoon, cougar, the occasional bear (though I've never personally seen one), lots of coyotes and squirrels and rabbits and moles and voles and the occasional mouse and rat(never seen one of those here either), turkeys, ducks, geese, and most of all deer. And almost all of them love to eat from any unprotected garden. The rest love to trample one. Unless you fence it, there's no point at all in having one.

The other day I took a drive to the home of a lady I am a guardian/conservator for. I have to sell it to help liquidate her assets and pay for her care in a secure memory-care facility. So I came to look around at the yard work that has been done recently and see if more needed to be done. Waiting for me in the carport that's right around the bend at the end of a long driveway was a deer lounging on the cool concrete floor. And it wasn't moving. We looked at each other a while, both puzzled what to do next. Finally the deer decided things were odd enough that getting a move on was probably a smart idea. Off it went.

My dog was in the car, and I kept it there. I got out and started walking around a bit. To my surprise I heard the deer crashing through the underbrush not very far away. Apparently it had thought moving just enough was plenty, then changed its mind. I was surprised it wasn't more skittish.

Yesterday I went back again to open the house up after having bug-bombed it. It was absolutely full of spiders, so much so that I couldn't have it shown to people. Anyway, there again was a deer in the driveway, evaluating me. Eventually it leaves, and I get out of the car. After hearing it crash off through the trees, I cautiously let the dog out and give him calm warning tones in my voice to stay with me. It's all fine. We head in the other direction, to an opposite side-yard that leads to the back yard.

The gate to the side yard is waist-high. I'm off on another inspection tour, since more landscaping labor has been done. Out springs a doe almost right on top of me, over one fence and then another in an oddly sectioned-off back yard. That one waited until I was very close before even bothering to move, and apparently the sound and smell of the dog didn't inspire it to move any sooner either. Not smart. The dog gives chase. I shout and shout at him and it has no effect at all until suddenly it does and he starts heading back to my side.

Then a fawn, still young enough to have its spots, makes a mad dash out of some fairly low groundcover surrounding a tree, only about a dozen feet from where we had surprised the doe, likely its mother. This thrills the dog, which gives chase, but this time miraculously stops at my first shout. I'm very proud of that guy. I put him in the car anyway.

The fawn sprints to the north end of the fenced yard, but is too small or weak to jump over the waist-high chain-link fencing. It's crashing against the fence in such a panic that it seems sure to injure itself, maybe even break something. I don't know what to do, but I want it out of there. I can't just back out, because the only way out from the fenced-in yard would be for the fawn to head toward me, which it's not about to do. So I figure I have to head toward it and somehow get it over the fence myself or coax it toward some gap or something it can leap on to get over the fence.

I head toward it, and that makes the fawn just go more crazy and smash itself harder into the fence. It bolts off to the south end of the yard, through an open gate into an enclosed section there, and starts doing the same frantic crashing and twisting about. Now she's really trapped, fenced within a fence. It's in a sub-section of the yard that has its own fencing, sort of like a long, wide, sloping kennel. And she headed into a corner crammed with rolls of haphazardly slumped rusty old rolls of chicken-wire and chain-link fencing, and broken bottles from when vagrants used the home as a crash pad and threw all their trash around the yard. The fawn is getting into bigger trouble and ever more frantic.

I wonder if I can lift it over the fence, or push it, or what. I'm trying my quietest approach, but the fawn only leaps and jams herself more into the wire, the fence, that accursed corner full of dangerous junk, twisting about so carelessly something bad has to happen. Then I realize that since approaching her does no good and may just cause her to hurt herself, and we're in an area where she could run right by me if I give her enough leeway, I'd be better off trying to herd her than close in on her. She's at the far left of the long fence-within-a-fence section, and I start moving to the right even as I come forward. She figures it out, and bolts along the left wall, down toward where I had entered, and out the gate, into the main yard and through the open carport and out toward the front of the house. Sooner or later, I'm sure, she'll find her mother now. The dog barks from inside the car, but no matter.

In a few minutes I let him out. We go on a sniffing tour of the garden, and I clip some flowers to bring home. I hope the fawn didn't get hurt, and that I didn't do anything to hurt it. I'm no expert. I wish those deer wouldn't hang around the house, and if they did, that they would get lost when they see me coming instead of hanging around just long enough to panic. Or, for that matter, to perhaps one day attack me or my dog. Deer injure more Americans than any other wildlife. They have very sharp hooves and can kill a dog. Of course a fawn can't kill a dog. But even a curious, testing dog bite could cripple or kill a fawn. Merely knocking it over at the wrong angle could injure one. I don't want to be part of that, but sometimes deer don't make it easy to live together but apart.

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Re: Garden Critter Observations

Post  sanderson on 6/25/2015, 4:28 am

Marc, Good story all the way through. Deer seem to be all flight, not much fight, except the males. I'm glad the fawn finally figured out how to get out. For a non-expert, you did pretty good there. And, your dog must have been in hog heaven with deer to chase. Imagine him telling the other dogs what he got to do that day!


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